Dr. Alia Ahmed outlines some of the worst chemical culprits, and some of the most popular products they contain
From pressing toothpaste to a deodorant, the use of daily cosmetics and personal care products is something that we all take for granted. They are just part of our daily routine. But many of these seemingly harmless items contain ingredients that cause skin rashes and reactions, ranging from irritated dry skin to painful blisters and even – in the case of some toothpastes – mouth ulcers.
There is a growing awareness of chemicals and their effect on our bodies. Last month a report from MPs expressed concern that chemicals used in home furnishings and in food packaging are absorbed by our bodies. And more and more Britons are becoming sensitive to otherwise safe compounds used in products that we apply to our skin or mouth.
These reactions can occur in different ways and their severity can also vary from person to person.
And as a dermatologist consultant, I regularly see patients who suffer from these problems. The most common is contact dermatitis, a type of eczema that is thought to affect up to one in ten people. This is essentially an allergic reaction – a defective immune system response that results in redness, inflammation, rashes and dry, flaky itchy skin. It can be extremely painful and even off.
And to make matters worse, it often takes some investigation to find the cause. Reactions cannot happen when a person uses a product, because gradual exposure can remove the natural barriers from the skin before problems are caused.
And we often use a wide range of products and skin problems can occur anywhere in the body, not just where the product is used. So what should you do if you have a mysterious rash and you think it could be caused by a cosmetic product?
First of all, I have outlined some of the worst chemical culprits, and some of the most popular products they contain. If you look in the ingredient list of products that you use, you will see many of these listed.
If recurring mouth ulcers worry you, this can be a sign of an allergy to triclosan, so check the label and consider a toothpaste without trying (stock image)
To complicate matters further, each ingredient can be called a number of things – go to dermnetnz.org for alternative names that can be called individual ingredients.
The quickest way to find out if you are sensitive to something is to stop using it to see if the symptoms disappear.
In the lower right panel I have shown the simple treatment steps to soothe the skin if you have an acute flare. And I have some ideas about alternative "free-from" products to switch to if you think you are sensitive to a certain ingredient.
Skin conditions can be terrible to deal with. But with a little thought and perseverance, the problem can be solved in many cases. If the symptoms persist, ask your doctor for a referral to a dermatologist.
& # 39; FOAMY & # 39; AGENTS ASSOCIATED WITH ULCERS
The six easy steps to relieve your symptoms
- Stop using products that you think cause itching, redness or swelling. Your symptoms should then improve after 24 hours.
- Treat the skin two to three times a day with a soothing, rich moisturizing cream. This forms a protective layer over the skin while it heals. Try Cetraben Cream (£ 3.99, superdrug.com). If dryness or itching persists after two or three days, ask your pharmacist for hydrocortisone cream and instructions for use. Eumovate Cream, which contains an anti-inflammatory agent called clobetasone butyrate, is another option. Consult your doctor if you see no improvement within a few days.
- Mild redness and burning sensation should disappear after a few hours with regular use of a cold compress. Moisturizing creams such as Dermacool Plus 2% Menthol aqueous cream (£ 5.24, chemist-4-u.com) can help.
- Blisters do not need medical care – they usually puncture automatically within 48 hours. If the blister is filled with pus, the surrounding skin feels painful, or if it starts to seep or bleed, it may be infected, in which case you should consult a doctor.
- Mouth ulcers usually disappear by themselves within a week. If you suffer from recurring sores on the tongue or inside of the mouth, switch to an SLS and triclosan-free toothpaste. A mouth spray with anti-inflammatory and narcotic properties such as Difflam Spray (£ 6.59, chemist-4-u.com) can calm the area. Go to a doctor if they don't improve after five days.
- For eye reactions, clean the eyelid area with cooled boiled water (boiling makes the water sterile), if they feel itchy or watery, while a cool compress can also help alleviate the problem. Allergic reactions to hair dyes and mascara can manifest as swelling around the eyelids, and some people may also find it difficult to open the eyes. This can be treated with an oral anti-histamine. Consult your pharmacist if the swelling lasts longer than 24 hours. If the eyelids are dry or flaky, a thin layer of Vaseline prevents the dead skin from accumulating.
Sodium lauryl sulfate or SLS is a collective name for a series of "foaming agents" that are added to products. They help to create foam – and can be found in shampoos, bubble baths, and even toothpastes. SLS & # 39; s also cleanse by breaking down oils on the skin and in the mouth by reducing the buildup of dental plaque that eats up the enamel.
Some people who use toothpaste containing SLS can develop sore skin and mouth sores because the chemical can irritate delicate tissues in the oral cavity. I see at least three patients a year with this problem, which is mainly related to toothpaste.
Try an SLS-free toothpaste such as UltraDEX Low-Abrasion Toothpaste (£ 6, boots.com), as some studies suggest that they can reduce the risk of ulcers by up to 70 percent.
If your scalp itches or feels tight after you wash your hair, you may have a sensitivity to SLS in shampoo.
If you have an existing skin condition such as eczema that has gotten worse, SLS can be the culprit, as it removes the skin from its natural oils and further damages the barrier. Switch to non-foaming products: try Faith In Nature Fragrance-free Body Wash (£ 5.49, hollandandbarrett.com) and Philip Kingsley No Scent No Color range (philipkingsley.co.uk) for the hair.
ANTIBACTERIAL THAT THE SKIN ATTACKED
Triclosan, a preservative with antifungal and antibacterial properties, is widely used in toothpaste, soap, hand wash, deodorants and antibacterial handles. It is absorbed by the mouth and skin. Reactions are rare and can occur after months or even years of use of a product.
Prolonged exposure to triclosan can also disrupt the protective barrier of the skin, causing itchy rash or eczema. It mainly occurs on the hands, after using hand wash and antibacterial gels.
Try a non-foaming soap such as E45 Emollient Wash Cream (£ 5.60, waitrose.com).
Like SLS, triclosan is also found in toothpastes and can cause mouth ulcers. If recurring mouth ulcers worry you, this can be a sign of an allergy to triclosan, so check the label and consider a toothpaste without trying. Triclosan-free toothpaste & # 39; s include Green People Minty Cool toothpaste (£ 4.25, greenpeople.co.uk).
WET WIPES BEHIND A SPEED OF Bursts
Wet wipes, moisturizers and shower gels can all contain methyl isothiazolinone or MI, an antibacterial preservative. Products with the label & # 39; hypoallergenic & # 39; and & # 39; gentle & # 39; may also contain it.
MI allergies are very common and affect one in ten people. I have seen a number of babies responding with what looks like a diaper rash – striking red spots with sharp edges and sometimes blisters or stains on the bottom and genitals after using baby wipes. Adults using cleansing wipes are also vulnerable to itchy, red rashes or dry spots on the hands, face or in intimate areas – these symptoms occur after repeated use of the wipes, often for days or weeks.
WaterWipes Baby Wipes (£ 1.75, boots.com) are MI-free, while The Green People range, which contains moisturizers, soap and shampoo, is also MI-free.
Some wipes, such as pre-moistened toilet wipes, may not contain MI, but have been associated with an increase in anal and vaginal responses. These are largely due to the chemicals, perfumes or preservatives in the wipes.
If you notice itchy, red rashes or sensitive skin in the genitals, these may be signs of a moist moist allergy. If you think you should use a cloth in an intimate area, make sure you have a wash when you get home to remove all the remains of the cloth.
And at home, just don't use them. Wash with water and a mild shower emollient such as Doublebase emollient shower gel (£ 7.20, expresschemist.co.uk).
AFTER THAT, SKIN CAN BLUSH
Balsam from Peru is an aromatic liquid that smells like a cross between vanilla and cinnamon. It is derived from trees from South and Central America.
It is used as a fragrance in cosmetics and personal care products and it also acts as an antibacterial agent – it can be found in everything from perfumes and aftershave lotions to deodorants and insect repellent.
Balsam from Peru is used as a fragrance in cosmetics and personal care products and it also acts as an antibacterial agent – it can be found in everything from perfumes and aftershave lotions to deodorants and insect repellent (stock image)
This ingredient is in the top five most common allergens in products that we come into contact with.
I know that a rash is related to Balsam from Peru when I see allergies in the neck or wrists where perfume is applied, on the hands where cream is used or under the arms after using deodorant.
Reactions may occur almost immediately or may develop for days or weeks as red, itchy, scaly, or slightly raised spots on the skin. The rash can also get worse every time you come in contact with the product.
All cosmetics and skin care products from NATorigin (natorigin.co.uk) are free from common allergens, including balm from Peru.
SHAMPOO CHEMICAL BEST AVOID
Parabens are a group of chemical preservatives – listed in ingredients such as methyl paraben, propyl paraben and butyl paraben – that are put into everything from shampoo, shower gel and moisturizing lotions to lipsticks and deodorants to stop the growth of bacteria and fungi.
Parabens-related skin allergies affect two percent of the population. Those with existing eczema or dry skin are more sensitive.
Redness, itching and blisters can pop up almost immediately in some people.
Even if this does not happen, prolonged contact over time can cause dry, flaky skin. Beware of watery cream, which is often used by people with sensitive skin as a soap alternative – they may contain parabens.
The Superdrug chain (superdrug.com) has a range of paraben-free cosmetics and personal care items in stock.
Parabens are a group of chemical preservatives – listed in ingredients such as methylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben – that are put into everything from shampoo, shower gel and moisturizing lotions to lipsticks and deodorants to stop the growth of bacteria and fungi (stock image)
MASCARA "ACID" IRRITATES THE EYES
Mascara, nail polish and hair spray often contain a family of synthetic acids called acrylic copolymers that act as a waterproofing agent.
Doctors note an increase in skin reactions from products containing acrylic copolymers. Be vigilant for redness and itching around the nails and fingers, cracking of the skin on the fingertips or blisters after using certain nail polishes. Beware of mascara & # 39; s that are also peppered with this ingredient. Some mascara's can cause redness and itching around the eyes and, in extreme cases, swelling. Redness, swelling, itching, flaking of the eyelids, loss of eyelashes, scabbing around eyelashes are all signs of a possible allergy to eye makeup, especially if they have occurred for a short period of time. Inika Organic (inikaorganic.com) offers a range of eye makeup without common chemical irritants.
THE GRAY HAIR PAINT WITH A BLACK SIGN
Para-phenylenediamine (PPD) is a clear chemical that is used in dark permanent and semi-permanent hair dye. It helps make gray hair darker and ensures a long-lasting color.
About five percent of people test positive for a response to PPD. Watch out for mild reactions such as redness around the hairline and ears – severe cases can result in swollen eyelids and blistering of the skin around the face, neck and scalp.
If you suspect a reaction, rinse the dye with a mild shampoo – you may also need medical help. Call the NHS Helpline 111 or visit the local emergency department if the response is severe. If you have been sensitive at home after using hair colorants, look for PPD-free formulas such as Natur Vital ColourSafe Hair Dye (£ 9.99, naturvital.co.uk).
- Dr. Alia Ahmed is a dermatologist consultant at Frimley Health NHS Trust in Windsor and Eudelo in London (eudelo.com).
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